I'm too damn old to have a cold. And I'm too damn cranky to have a cold and work eight hours a day. But since I'm not unconscious or dead, I can't really justify staying home like I did when I was a kid and it was fun. Now it's just boring. So I needed to figure out a way I could be at work without sharing my germ-ridden status with my co-workers. They seem like nice enough folks, but I suspect they could turn into a medieval mob crying for blood if I brought pestilence into their midst. Best not to find out.
The Vent from Hell, which is directly over my desk, began spewing dust a couple of weeks ago as our underpowered heating/air conditioning system struggled mightily to single-handedly combat the the northwest winter. Each time the heat came on, the fibrous cloud caused a chorus of hacking and coughing throughout the cube maze. I needed protection--and I knew just what to do. I brought in the masks I wear on airplanes to counteract perfume and germs. They are pretty effective; I don't often get sick after traveling by air, and being placed next to one of those perfume-drenched people who believe "more is better" no longer results in hours of groveling before flight attendants to get my seat changed. Sure, the masks worked well on airplanes, but were they a match for the demon vent of dusty death?
Success! The Vent from Hell was vanquished--but not in time. I have a damn cold. I can't stand the idea of staying at home thinking my cranky old thoughts, but I hate it when people come to work and cough in their hands and sneeze all over the workspace. My solution? I'm sitting in my cube wearing a mask like a fugitive from a hospital, wiping my hands like an OCD sufferer (think Monk, the TV detective), and causing double-takes in the hallways.
"Why are you wearing the mask?" asked on co-worker, "is it for your protection or ours?" Never one to pass up a chance to look good, I said, "Yours, of course." I smiled behind my mask, but naturally, he couldn't tell. That's one disadvantage of wearing a mask. People have to guess from your eyes what your expression is. Jack Nicholson could probably scare the crap out of you in a mask, and Carrie Underwood would still look gorgeous--me, I just look kind of like an owl.
My mask filters out dust and keeps in humidity; I don't cough and sneeze nearly so much with it on. I found out the hard way, however, to keep gum or mints handy--I about asphyxiated after a garlic-laden lunch.
One co-worker suggested I create "mood masks" with smiling or drooping mouths to match my attitude. I don't think so. My boss already thinks I'm weird, and the "gnashing teeth" mask probably wouldn't be his favorite. Mona Lisa was on to something with that mysterious smile; maybe I can look mysterious behind a mask. (What? It could happen!)